Instead what we get are tests that can be confusing and unclear. In the 2011-2012 school year, the New York State 8th Grade ELA test had a particular set of questions in the test booklet that left students, teachers, administrators, and human beings in general completely baffled. It involved a parable that nobody ever heard involving a talking pineapple and some woodland creatures having a race. The story made no sense and therefore the questions that needed to be answered pertaining to the parable were insane and damn near impossible to answer. It was unlikely that students were prepared for this question because teachers (and arguably test prep books) don’t train test takers to answer nonsense. Perhaps while they were forced to railroad through mountains of curriculum content they merely grazed the section on inane questions.
When that is coupled with the disrespect teachers are served daily in the media and in the general discourse of the Great Privatization you can understand how uneasy teachers feel. Essentially they have little control over the way their classrooms are paced out of fear of the test. They have little control over the ways their lessons are imparted once test prep comes around because they have to follow the book. Even though the pacing and the test prep book may not prepare students for the test they inevitably have to take, the teacher will be graded on the results. Teachers will be deemed ineffective and have their names printed in that despicable rag The New York Post as failing teachers. This is the respect that teachers get. My grandfather used to tell me that when he was a little boy in Poland that it was an honor to carry a teacher’s books home for them…now teachers have their names written in the journal or record and posted with a bounty marked “Dead or Alive”.
Its no wonder the tone in the staffroom has become somber. Sometimes the conversations in the staffroom sound like those of mice on a sinking ship: panicked but unwilling to abandon. The spirit of teaching has been weighed down by the over regulation of a government run by people who don’t understand the first thing about education. If people were really so worried about teacher performance they’d license them instead of certifying them so that their information could be readily accessed, but teacher quality is just a red herring to gum up the works of a system that nobody has the political bravery to broach. It’s safer just to let your corporate backers break the unions and close the public sector down. The teachers are systematically broken by slowly and harshly rolling away their creative options, regulating their classroom design, taking away their benefits definitions, their tenure, and finding ways to limit their income.
Nobody ever went into teaching thinking it was going to be a cakewalk but there isn’t a reason on Earth for teachers to be declared an enemy—unless you want them gone. Then you can have a curriculum so scripted that you can hire out of work actors to teach the lessons via satellite and have sentries with batons handle the classroom management. That may sound hyperbolic and Orwellian now, but just wait a couple years…I’ve been on interviews to be a via satellite teacher.